Who Are They?

Who is Paul Gauguin?

Get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life with Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, ‘Faa Iheihe’ 1898
Paul Gauguin
Faa Iheihe 1898
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Did you know...artist Paul Gauguin worked in a bank until he was 40 years old?!

He was born in Paris in 1848 but he spent his childhood in Lima, which is in Peru. Living in Peru gave him a love of exotic, faraway places. He returned to France when he was seven, but he never forgot Peru and often dreamed of returning there.

Paul Gauguin, ‘Harvest: Le Pouldu’ 1890
Paul Gauguin
Harvest: Le Pouldu 1890
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Gauguin was a post-impressionist artist. He was influenced by folk art and primitive art, and kept detail to a minimum in his paintings. He used bold flat areas of colour, like in this painting called Harvest: Le Pouldu.

Can you see how the hills and the fields are made from shapes of colour?

circle of Paul Gauguin, ‘Study of a Tree. Verso: Portrait Study of a Man (?Paul Gauguin)’ ?1887
circle of Paul Gauguin
Study of a Tree. Verso: Portrait Study of a Man (?Paul Gauguin) ?1887
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When he was not working in the bank, Paul Gauguin would draw and paint and get to know the artists who hung out in the cafés near his house. He became great friends with an artist called Lucien Pissarro who taught him all about impressionism. Impressionism is a style of art which artists in France beagn to use in the late 19th century to paint landscapes and café interiors and people. They used quick brush strokes and dabs of colour to capture the fleeting impression of scenes.

When Gauguin decided that he wanted to devote his life to painting he set off on his travels. He was interested in places which were quiet and still had old traditions. He did not like modern cities. He first went to a countryside area of France called Brittany (where many other artists were living and painting). He then went much further...to Polynesia!

Paul Gauguin, ‘Tahitians’ c.1891
Paul Gauguin
Tahitians c.1891
Tate

The unfinished painting above was made in Tahiti in 1891 during Paul Gauguin's first trip to the island. He was so enchanted with the place that he returned a couple of years later and stayed there until 1903.

His paintings of Tahiti became famous after he died, because of their bold, exotic colours, and the feeling of calm. Unlike in Europe, where the countryside was being dug up to create cities and roads, Gauguin's paintings were about people and nature in harmony, showing a simpler life.

What do think of Gauguin's paintings? Have you ever been to or drawn an exotic place? How are the colours and shapes different in a rainforest compared to the colours in a city?

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